Kristoffersen trumps Hirscher for world giant slalom gold

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Silver medalist Austria’s Marcel Hirscher, gold medalist Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen and bronze medalist France’s Alexis Pinturault celebrate after the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships Men's Giant Slalom at the Are, Sweden. — Reuters

ÅRE, Sweden — Norway's Henrik Kristoffersen kept his nerve to trump Austria's defending champion Marcel Hirscher and claim gold in the men's giant slalom on Friday.

The Norwegian clocked a total time of 2min 20.24sec over two runs, finishing 0.20sec ahead of Olympic champ Hirscher.

France's Alexis Pinturault, who led after the first run, took bronze, at 0.42sec, to add to the combined gold he won on Monday.

It was a first global title for the 24-year-old Kristoffersen, who won slalom bronze at the 2014 Sochi Games at the age of 19 to become the youngest male medallist in Olympic alpine skiing history.

"It was about time I got the medal!" said Kristoffersen, who won giant slalom silver behind Hirscher at last year's Pyeongchang Games. "It's amazing. I haven't won a giant slalom since Meribel in 2015."

His tactics, he added, had been to "just go... just train and do the right things, what's best for yourself and become a better skier".

Hirscher, with six titles already in the bag, had been gunning for a record-equalling seventh men's world title which would have drawn him level with compatriot Toni Sailer.

While he missed out on that, his silver did see him become just the fifth man to claim 10 or more world championships medals after Kjetil Andre Aamodt (12), Marc Girardelli (11), Lasse Kjus (11) and Benjamin Raich (10).

It was another Austrian, Marco Schwarz (with the 16th best time in the first leg), who seized the first sizable lead.

Schwarz, who won combined bronze and team event silver here, lay down the quickest run for the second descent and it was enough for him to keep the lead through the next nine racers, and eventually finish equal fifth.

Slovenia's Jan Kranjec, one of the top six favorites, then drew level with Schwarz. Next up came Loic Meillard, the Swiss holding on to take a 0.12sec lead to up the ante on the four racers still to enter the start gate.

France's Thomas Fanara, in his last world champs, skidded out high up the floodlit course, to gasps from the large crowd packed around the finish area.

And suddenly it was down to the fancied top three. First out was Kristoffersen, who built up his 0.57sec lead by the first intermediary as he attacked, carrying on that form to come through a whopping 0.92sec ahead of Meillard.

Next up was Hirscher, Austria's favorite son, who again held nothing back from the off. As he pushed, errors came in and the Austrian went into the red on his third intermediary and came through just behind the Norwegian.

He sank to his haunches, be-gloved hands on each side of his personalized helmet watching the replays on the big screen television in a state of almost disbelief.

Pinturault looked a picture of calm as he lined up, giving a bang of his poles before planting them and kicking out of the hut.

He built on his 0.18sec lead from the first run to 0.33sec at the first interval, but faded as the course lengthened, eventually falling back to round out the podium.

American Ted Ligety, once known as "Mr.GS" after winning three world titles (2011, 2013, 2015) and gold at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, has faded somewhat from the World Cup podium.

His last GS win in international competition was in a World Cup race at the 2015/16 season opener in Soelden.

The 34-year-old came in 1.58sec off Pinturault's pace in the first leg in Are, leaving himself a mountain he failed to climb in the second, eventually finishing 1.54sec down in 11th. — AFP


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